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Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018
Team Horgan does it again
by Randy Pascal

There was good news for the local junior curling community coming out of Fort Frances this past weekend. Unfortunately, for the first time in five years, a Sudbury sweep was not meant to be.

While the Curl Sudbury rink of Tanner Horgan, Jacob Horgan, Nicholas Bissonnette and Maxime Blais can now boast of donning the Northern Ontario colours at Junior Nationals every year since 2014, the bragging rights for the fairer sex went the way of a Thunder Bay quartet.

Representing the Fort William Curling Club, the team of Hailey Beaudry, Kendra Lemieux, Emily Cooney and Erin Tomalty stopped the Sudbury foursome of Kira Brunton, Megan Smith, Sara Guy and Kate Sherry 9-5 in the final, becoming only the second squad outside of Sudbury rinks to capture the NOCA women’s banner since 2005.

Team Horgan, for its part, would run the table in round robin play, posting a 4-0 record while outscoring their opponents 35-6. Still, the gold medal encounter with hometown favourite Christopher Silver was anything but a given. Horgan and company held a 5-4 advantage after eight ends, but added a critical two points with the hammer in the ninth, giving way to a 7-4 victory when all was said and done.

The reality on the men’s side of the draw is that the Sudbury juggernaut could not only draw on ample experience at the provincial level, but substantial success enjoyed in the men’s open ranks as well. “We’ve been in that situation so many times before that there weren’t really nerves anymore,” said skip Horgan.

“We know that we have the talent necessary to win. The only thing that is going to stand in our way, given all of the work that we’ve put in, is the mental side of the game. But it seems as though this year, we’ve really figured it out, understanding how exactly to play in those big games.”

Additionally, the locals seem to take in stride the fact that they were less than a week removed from representing Canada at a prestigious event in China, battling jet-lag while returning to conditions that stood in marked contrast to the days they had left only days earlier.

"It was like two different worlds," said Horgan. "China was by far the biggest splash of any event that we've ever played in. China put on a good show for us. They had spectacular ice, where provincials felt more like home, back to our roots."

"Fort Frances was very straight ice, and one side of the sheet would fall with draw weight," Horgan added. "The ice there was by no means impossible to play, it was just very different, but you could deal with it. I thought we figured out the ice very quickly, quicker than we have in the past. I was really pleased to see how quickly we were able to adapt to the ice conditions."

All of which makes things heading into the 2018 New Holland Canadian Junior Curling Championships very, very interesting. On the one hand, you have a Horgan rink that has walked away with silver and bronze medals at the past two junior nationals, respectively. And they are heading to Shawinigan in a great state of mind.

“We had been in something of a slump, playing level-wise, over the last little while, from our last tour event through to China,” said Horgan. “We were really looking to turn it around. We were confident going in, but it was good to see that we were able to put together some really solid games, not just winning, but winning very controlled games. It seems like we were getting back into early season form.”

On the other hand, there is no denying that the locals will enter their fifth shot at a national title facing likely the deepest field they have encountered, especially at the very top end of the competition. “The top five teams are all coming back, with the exception of maybe two curlers, so there’s lots of good curlers coming back,” said Horgan.

“Two years ago, we were runners-up and the team that we had played (in the final) had all gone overage, so we were kind of the number one seed going in last year. This year, the two teams that finished higher than us last year are both coming back, so I think there’s not quite the same target on our back this year. But it’s going to be a tough field.”

With the Olympics slated for February of 2018, many national events have been moved slightly, including the Canadian Juniors, which will run from January 13th to the 21st, as opposed to sliding into early February, as is normally the case.

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